For more than 20 years, Graziano has been engaged in civic life, inspired after returning from college to find that developers were slowly destroying the Flushing of his childhood.
Rather than simply lament the changes, Graziano got to work, engaging people at a grassroots level to build support for rezoning the neighborhoods of northeast Queens to protect their unique character. He would eventually serve as a liaison between the Department of City Planning and residents across the city looking to do the same.
Graziano is running on the Reform Party line against current councilman Paul Vallone in the 19th Council District on November 7. He narrowly lost to Vallone in the Democratic Primary in September, garnering 46 percent of the vote.
It's almost unheard of that an incumbent Democrat in Queens loses their seat. The fact that Graziano came so close to unseating Vallone shows that many residents aren't satisfied with the job that their current councilman is doing.
Now Graziano will get a chance to take his message to the entire electorate in the General Election, not just registered Democrats.
Vallone has been a fine member of the City Council since his election in 2013. Will the district fall apart if he is given another four years? Not likely, given the strong civic activism in the district, but is being merely “serviceable” a good criteria for deciding who to cast your vote for? We don't think so.
City & State recently ranked all of the City Council members based on a number of criteria, and Vallone came in 38 out of 50 (one seat was vacant at the time of the ranking). We won't go into all of different criteria, from bills introduced to attendance, but focus on one: constituent services.
Vallone ranked dead last in that category, which as far as we're concerned is the most important duty a council member's office should undertake. As the local representative, the council member should be the first point of contact for residents dealing with issues that require government attention.
Instead, we have heard from a number of residents that Vallone's office is less than responsive when it comes to constituent complaints, often referring them to other elected officials. State Senator Tony Avella has publicly groused that his office is dealing with too many issues - from zoning to sanitation to destructive tree roots to bioswales - that should be handled at the city level.
Vallone comes from a political family. His father, Peter Vallone, Sr., served in the City Council from 1974 to 2001, and was the second-most powerful official in the city when he became the first speaker in 1986. His brother, Peter Vallone, Jr., represented the same Astoria district from 2002 to 2013 after their father was forced out by term limits.
Both were admirable public servants, as is Paul Vallone. But no one is immune from ennui, and we wonder if Paul Vallone is running for re-election because he loves being a member of the City Council, or if running for City Council is just what a Vallone does.
Even after narrowly winning the primary, Vallone blew off several candidates nights hosted recently by civic associations in the district. While we realize there is a lot of civics in the district who want to host these events, they only come around once every four years. Vallone should make it a point to show up, if even just out of respect for the voters.
We also couldn't get Vallone in for an interview with our editorial board, so we weren't able to have him address any of our concerns or hear what he would do with another four years in office.
Meanwhile, Graziano impressed us not only with the professionalism of his campaign, but his grasp of the issues beyond development. While Vallone should be proud of his time in office, we think a fresh face and new energy are what the engaged residents of the 19th Council District deserve.
On November 7, we say vote Graziano.